A woman whose 18-month-old dog was stolen from her garden has revealed how the canine was mysteriously returned just three months later.
Cintia Gardner, 42, her husband and two young children were left devastated when their Cocker Spaniel Honey was taken from the gated garden outside her house in a quiet Kent cul-de-sac last June. No trace of the thief was ever found.
Then, three months later, Cintia and her family looked outside to find Honey walking up to their back door after mysteriously reappearing.
Moments after the dog arrived, Cintia received a call from a stranger using an unknown number who said: ‘Go and look for your dog’.
Cintia Gardner, 42, her husband and two young children were left devastated when their Cocker Spaniel Honey was taken from the gated garden outside her house in a quiet Kent cul-de-sac last June. The dog was mysteriously returned to their garden three months later
Cintia said Honey (pictured) was unexpectedly returned in September with a red marking on her ear and significant weight loss. Cintia believes organised criminals were responsible
‘To this day, I have no idea who I was talking to,’ Cintia wrote in the Independent. ‘I never found out if it was the person who took her, or some kind soul who had found her.’
Honey looked thinner but otherwise healthy, although she did have a red mark on her ear similar to the ones seen on farm animals.
‘To me it seems likely that her theft was the work of an organised crime group,’ Cintia said.
When the family bought honey two years ago, the family paid £550. Now the same breeder is charging £2,500 for pups.
The demand for puppies has skyrocketed during lockdown and police have reported a rise in the number of organised crime gangs linked to dognappings.
An estimated 2,438 dogs were reported stolen to police across the UK last year – the equivalent of seven a day – with Staffordshire bull terriers the biggest target.
Some 97 Staffordshire bull terriers were stolen, according to the figures from Direct Line Pet Insurance.
It is thought the dogs are taken for breeding purposes, with Staffie puppies selling for £1,000 each.
Cintia said she’s hoping her four-year-old will forget Honey being taken and the theft has impacted her entire family
Crossbreeds were the second most targeted while cocker spaniels, springer spaniels and Labradors were also popular targets.
Regional data, revealed through Freedom of Information requests, found there was a 68 per cent rise in dog thefts in the North West, making it the UK’s hotspot.
London came second, followed by the South East and Yorkshire. Just over a fifth of dogs were reunited with their owners.
Cintia said the entire family was relieved to have Honey home but that her theft had made a lasting impact on her children.
She continued: ‘Whenever she’s off the lead or goes to sniff in the bushes, my four-year-old gets extremely stressed. Even though he didn’t understand exactly what had happened when she was taken, it seems to have had an impact on him.
Cintia said Honey had been alone in their garden for just 15 minutes before being taken. Pictured: Cintia and her husband
‘When Honey’s out of sight, he cries and seems desperate to get her back close to him. We’re hoping that, as he’s so young, he’ll forget in the years to come.
‘To us, Honey is a family member but it’s clear that, for some people, dogs are just a way to make money.’
Cintia also called for tougher laws for dognappers.
Only one in 100 dog thefts leads to court action, according to the group Pet Theft Reform, which wants to make stealing pets a specific crime.
Most prosecutions result in a fine despite the offence carrying a maximum seven-year jail term.
Cintia added: ‘I hope that the law will one day get tougher on dog-nappers, to avoid this happening to another family.’